READFIELD — On a pitch littered with senior strikers, proven 30-goal scorers and all-conference players at nearly every position for two unbeaten sides, Carter McPhedran needed less than nine minutes to decide things himself.

Maranacook’s sophomore midfielder collected his own rebound in the 58th minute for the first game-winning goal of his career, and the Black Bears saw it through to a 1-0 win over Erskine in a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference boys soccer game at Ricky Gibson Field of Dreams.

“I was really amped up,” McPhedran said. “I was really wanting to go in in the first half, and it just wasn’t the right time. When I went in, I was ready to go.”

Maranacook improved to 7-0-0 at the midpoint of its season with the 200th win of head coach Don Beckwith’s 15-year career.

Perhaps it was fitting that it was a role player providing the pivotal moment of the match.

“It’s not about me. It’s about them,” Beckwith said. “I didn’t play a single one of those games. Really, I haven’t played a single game. I figure I might have about 20 percent to do with it, because it’s really about the parents who went to all the travel, it’s about the kids showing up in the offseason. It’s about all of that stuff.”

McPhedran never stepped on the field in the first half, waiting until the match was more than 50 minutes old to see his first game action.

A throw-in from the right side went to senior midfielder Silas Mohlar, who played a headed flick to the far post for a running McPhedran. McPhedran’s first bid was turned out by a diving save from Erskine goalkeeper David McGraw (nine saves), but the rebound went straight back to McPhedran’s right foot for an expertly finished one-timer.

“Our coach always tells us to stay wide for the ball that goes over the defenders’ heads, and I was just trying to do that,” McPhedran said. “I was just there at the right time. It could have been any of us. I was there, made the shot and it went in.”

“That’s how we do things,” Beckwith said of McPhedran’s heroics. “Somebody different steps up every day. When you get the opportunities, you make the most of them. … He played that perfectly. Pretty composed for a young kid.”

Neither side was surprised to see only one goal produced in 80 minutes between a pair of teams intent on waging a spirited battle in the midfield, contesting every aerial ball and defending every square inch of turf.

Erskine (6-1-1) was every bit the opponent Maranacook deserved on what turned into an historic evening. The Eagles easily could have produced the winning goal themselves, with two glorious chances — one in the first half and another in the second — that narrowly missed by a total of inches.

Erskine striker Michael Sprague just missed putting the Eagles on top in the 40th minute, when a long throw-in from the left touchline deflected twice in the 18-yard box and dropped at Sprague’s feet. Sprague, though, missed wide right from inside of six yards, prompting him to cover his face with his shirt in disbelief.

“They found some openings, and it kind of caught us off-guard,” Maranacook senior center back Jackson McPhedran said. “I think it was just plain luck on our part. We weren’t talking, and they had two open men over there. That can’t happen.”

“That would have really shifted momentum for us,” Erskine coach Carrie Larrabee said.

It was a surprising ending to an evenly played first half that was not a sign of things to come after the break. Maranacook was the stronger side throughout the final 40 minutes, outshooting the visitors 11-1 in the second half and holding a decided territorial edge.

The one shot the Eagles did take nearly evened the game in a nervous moment for the Black Bears. Trailing by a goal, Alex Cleaves had the chance to pull Erskine square when given a penalty kick following a hand ball by Maranacook back Duncan Rogers in the 66th minute.

Cleaves’ blast past Black Bear keeper Ryan Worster rattled off the crossbar, the only chance of the second half for Erskine having passed by the boards.

“(Maranacook) got the momentum going,” Larrabee said. “When we had that PK, we were up then. If we had scored then, it would have been a different last 20 minutes of the game, but they definintely took the momentum coming into the second half and used that.”

Anxious moment averted, Maranacook had the win and the 200th win for Beckwith.

“I’m super-pumped for him,” Jackson McPhedran said. “He deserves it. He’s the best coach I’ve had and will have.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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